For many years, Lionel Messi felt the need to show his belonging to Argentina. He had left Rosario for Barcelona when he was barely 13 years old and, in reality, in his country they knew him with an ocean in between. The attacker needed to display (in his introverted way) that he too was one of them. The result, however, was a long series of disagreements for far too long. They seemed like two foreign bodies doomed to corrosion and the left-handed man raised a white flag after his umpteenth frustration, in the 2018 World Cup.
That’s how it was. But things have changed so much in the heat of the good run of another Lionel (Scaloni) on the bench, confirmed with the 2021 Copa America title after 28 years of dry spell, that in the run-up to Argentina’s debut in Qatar against Arabia Saudi (11.00, Movistar) around the Albiceleste the conspiracy has been germinating that the World Cup must be lifted, to a large extent, by Messi. For Argentina, of course, he has been since Mexico for 86 without tasting it, but also a lot for Lio, who at the age of 35 is facing his last big date, as he confessed this Monday. Practically, a country for a footballer, who after so many troubles is joined by a feeling of debt. Quite a turn of events, very difficult to anticipate when he collected his belongings four years ago in Russia.
“Surely, it’s my last World Cup, my last chance to achieve that great dream,” admitted a Messi on Monday who, after eating, appeared in the training field with a pachorra and three hours later, in a press room where he was only missing sell tickets, he was relaxed, even talking about life and the passage of time. “Today I am more mature, I enjoy everything more, the small details. Before we played every three days and I only thought about winning. Sometimes we don’t realize the important things”, released the ten on the eve of his fifth World Cup.
With Argentina, everything is excessive, even more so before the premiere. The relaxed gesture of the star -although he recognized his last train- suited the paved albiceleste well while Scaloni shook off the tension as best he could. “We are not obliged to win the World Cup, not at all. We come to compete. This is still a game, there is nothing dramatic about it. Then real life goes on”, commented the coach, the youngest in the tournament (44 years old).
The first World Cup without Maradona
There is a widespread feeling, at least in Europe, that this event in the middle of the desert and under an intimidating daytime sun (like the one this Monday in the afternoon training) will return the lost glory to South America, fallow since Brazil in 2002. A forecast that raises the actions of Argentina and the Canarinha, although caution is imposed on both: they have hardly faced Europeans from Russia. The new League of Nations in the old continent has restricted the possibility of the South Americans meeting their equals on the other side of the Atlantic. In this period, Argentina has only seen them against Italy in La Finalissima (European champion against America), which they defeated 0-3 in June. Estonia and the United Arab Emirates have been its other non-American rivals. In any case, the numbers place Scaloni’s boys this Tuesday before the possibility of equaling the best unbeaten streak (37 games), now in the hands of the Azzurri. They have not lost since the semifinal of the Copa America 2019 against Brazil (2-0), curiously, one of the best performances of this new stage, according to what they believe from within.
“The big favorites don’t win the World Cups. There are no less than eight or ten teams that can do it, and most of them are European. The small details will make a team champion, and it doesn’t have to be the one that plays the best”, pointed out Scaloni, who did accept that his team took the pressure off after the conquest a year and a half ago. “We come from winning and that makes people not be so anxious,” Messi anticipated.
Since the 2018 skid, in the Albiceleste there are hardly any left, in addition to La Pulga, Otamendi, Di Maria, Acuna, Dybala and, coincidentally, Scaloni, Jorge Sampaoli’s assistant at the time. On this trip, the return to the sock has been great in names (the Aguero, Mascherano or Higuain have already left) and, above all, in sensations. But this Tuesday the team leaves the liquid terrain of the atmospheres and enters reality. “I feel very good physically and I arrive at a great moment personally. You always have to try and not stay with the desire ”, Messi warned. A new horizon for Argentina that opens, by the way, in the first World Cup without its God Maradona, now deceased two years minus three days.
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Source: EL PAIS